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Ravi Bopara 'must deliver' in last-chance saloon says Bob Willis

Bob Willis Posted 3rd May 2013 view comments

I doubt I'm the only one who is a little bit surprised to see Ravi Bopara back in the England fold.

Bopara's had a difficult time away from cricket in the last 12 months but he must be approaching the last-chance saloon after averaging only a fraction above 30 in Test and ODI cricket despite repeated opportunities to impress.

Ravi Bopara: has taken 20 ODI wickets at 37.25 apiece

Ravi Bopara: has taken 20 ODI wickets at 37.25 apiece

His inclusion in England's 15-man squad for the NatWest Series against New Zealand and the Champions Trophy beyond that needs to be a positive experience for him on a number of levels.

Tough

The truth is that Bopara has drifted well down the pecking order in terms of Test match selection - he's hardly mentioned in despatches anymore.

Looking at the squad now, I'd say that Bopara plus Jonny Bairstow, James Tredwell and perhaps Chris Woakes will be the four to miss out from the 15.

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I don't think playing in the second division of the County Championship helps him; he needs to be playing at a higher standard of cricket than that if he is to add to his 13 Test caps.

It's a slightly different story in ODI cricket, though. Chairman of selectors Geoff Miller says they are always looking for cover in the bowling department and Bopara is a handy medium-pacer who can take pace off the ball.

Even so, I imagine he'll find it tough to force his way into England's first-choice XI. With two new, white cricket balls in operation in 50-over cricket these days there has to be an emphasis on picking 'proper' front-line bowlers.

Looking at the squad now, I'd say that Bopara plus Jonny Bairstow, James Tredwell and perhaps Chris Woakes will be the four to miss out from the 15.

Balance

Woakes continues to impress for Warwickshire and the fact that he may not be able to force his way into the team shows that England's attack - bowling in English conditions - should be tough to handle this summer.

Steven Finn has been an absolute revelation in 50-over cricket, out-bowling everybody else in this format, while James Anderson will be lethal if he can get that white Kookaburra ball to swing and Stuart Broad, as he showed in New Zealand, is back to his best.

It is very encouraging to see Tim Bresnan bowling with a little bit more nip in his two outings for Yorkshire than he did before he had that elbow operation and with Graeme Swann coming rather gingerly back into play for Nottinghamshire, things look more healthy than they have in several months.

Kevin Pietersen's absence does affect the balance of the side but in Joe Root England have a player with a fabulous temperament for the big occasion, as he showed when he was thrown into Test match cricket at the deep end in Nagpur before Christmas.

Root has got a tremendous average in the 50-over game as well, averaging 81.50 from his first seven ODI knocks, plus he can turn his arm over as well and will probably get a sixth or seventh bowler's job in front of Jonathan Trott.

I think he's going to be a real batting star in the future in the Test arena - either in the middle order or opening the batting eventually - because he's got all of the skill that you need and for a guy of such tender years he is an exceptional prospect.
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